Postpartum depression

June 1, 2012

Because new mothers see pediatricians after giving birth more often than they see their obstetricians, it's only natural that they are in a better position to screen and observe possible cases of postpartum depression.

Key Points

Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common and serious postpartum condition, affecting 10% to 20% of mothers within the first year of childbirth.1 Studies have found that up to 50% of women with PPD go undiagnosed.2 Risk factors comprise a prior history of depression, including PPD, and depression during pregnancy. The World Health Organization has identified major depression as the fourth-leading cause of disease, with estimated costs of $30 billion to $50 billion in lost productivity and medical costs in the United States per year.1 Women with a prior history of postpartum depression have an approximate 25% to 50% risk of recurrence.3,4 Other risk factors include recent stressful life events, lack of social support, and unintended pregnancy.5

Postpartum depression has been shown to be more common among women who are economically stressed or disadvantaged and is highly prevalent in low-income, black mothers.2 Studies of economically disadvantaged families have shown that depressive symptoms can last beyond the initial postpartum year, which exceeds the current diagnostic criteria for PPD, and have a prevalence of 23% to 25%.6